For youth groups throughout Australia, the school holidays and the Easter period can be challenging times for connecting with young people. Hurstville Presbyterian’s youth group, Hurstville Young People Evangelising (HYPE), saw the gap between terms as an opportunity.
HYPE runs on Friday nights for years 6-12, with a team of four leaders and around 8-15 youth depending on the night.
For the April school holidays, they set up a holiday Bible reading plan, including a WhatsApp group where leaders, youth and parents can all share thoughts on the passages.
One of the leaders at HYPE, Jessie Zhang, shared that they decided to do an Easter Bible reading plan with their youth after successfully trialling the concept over Christmas last year. She says, “We had done a memory verse from Philippians 4, so we thought let’s encourage them to read through Philippians. We had found [the Christmas reading plan] was helpful and was a way …to kind of partner with parents as well.”
Passion for discipling young people
Currently, Jessie is a social worker with foster children. She has a passion for young people that goes beyond work and youth ministry as crucially important. She shares, “I was in HYPE when it first started. My leaders were amazing. They are some of the most supportive, most loving people. [They] really invested in me.” In addition to her Christian parents, Jessie describes her time as a youth at HYPE as instrumental to her faith and growth as a Christian.
Jessie began leading at HYPE in her second year of university and now has been leading for over five years. Leading at HYPE is all about discipling young people and encouraging them to know Jesus. She says, “You have so much opportunity to speak into their lives, at that time when they really want it. They’re really looking for answers, they’re really looking for role models and good influences.”
Bible reading during holiday time
The HYPE leaders came up with a two-week plan to encourage youth (and their parents) to read the book of Philippians while away from youth group. Jessie shares, “We broke up the chapters into eight readings, and we have a WhatsApp group with all the kids. One of the leaders [will post part of the passage every few days] saying, ‘Hey, this is what I find encouraging from the passage today. What are your thoughts?’ [To] encourage a bit of discussion.”
Throughout the holidays Jessie and her fellow leaders have been encouraged by how their youth have engaged in the plan. She says, “On the second day we had one youth who asked a question about Paul and Timothy’s relationship with the Philippi church and was interested in knowing more about the context, which was great to see they were keen to dig a bit further.”
As well as a continued opportunity to grow the youth, the Bible reading plan has been a great chance to build relationships with parents. Jessie says, “There are some parents whose kids have been coming for years and they’ll just drop them off…Then there are some parents who are really keen who come to the door every Friday.” Taking teaching and relationship outside of Friday nights has been a unique opportunity to engage with both types of parents and go further in building partnerships with them.
Prayer for HYPE and growing Christian youth
As youth group returns on Fridays in Term 2, Jessie and the other HYPE leaders are focused on improving the group so youth are being engaged and grown. As always in ministry, there are challenges to navigate so that the group can continue to be effective in reaching and discipling young people
Jessie explains, “At the moment we are adjusting to having a younger age range in our youth group. We’re used to having more year 9 – 12s. [They have] a lot less energy and just love to sit and discuss. Whereas [at the moment] we’ve got more year 6-8s. They want to run around and find it difficult to sit in a Bible study or talk and just listen.” She asks that people pray that the HYPE team can navigate this wisely so that all the youth at HYPE are learning and growing in Christ.
For Jessie, her own experience is a driving force for why she continues to lead at HYPE and minister to young people. She shares, “I wouldn’t have been as grounded in my faith in high school without having my leaders and without having a youth group to come back to every Friday night.”